The NBA and Phoenix Suns have released their 2019-20 regular season schedule. Let’s break down and predict what will happen in October and November.
Following an abbreviated preseason (only four games from October 8th through the 14th), the Phoenix Suns will open their 2018-19 schedule on October 23, at home, versus the Sacramento Kings.
Excluding the limited preseason schedule, only five games are scheduled in the month of October, although four of the five games are against 2019 Western Conference playoff opponents with the fifth being the opening night Kings who finished in 9th place in the West last year and added veteran sniper Trevor Ariza this summer.
Okay, so the Ariza signing shouldn’t scare anyone, but the Sacramento Kings and their young and exciting core are still going to be a very difficult team to beat this season, even by a much-improved Suns team.
This means that if the Suns do not pull off an opening night victory, by closing out the month with four games against all playoff teams (Denver, the Clippers, Utah, and Golden State), there is a chance that for all of Phoenix’s offseason changes and improvements, they could finish the month of October 0-5.
On the more optimistic side of things though, if the Suns are a legitimately improved team, there is a very real chance that they could be 2-3 come Halloween night, with a victory over Sacramento (it is a home game, after all), and potentially a win over the Golden State Warriors, beginning the year on a solid note could help set the tone for more positivity throughout the year.
The Kings are by no means world beaters, and Golden State will not only be without Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, and Andre Iguodala, but will also still be working out the kinks with their surprise addition of D’Angelo Russell.
Many talking heads have Golden State missing the playoffs this season, so the Suns should have a very real opportunity at stealing at least one win from them this season – so why not an early season matchup, even if it is on the road?
Games at home: 3 / Games on the road: 2
Game of the month: October 23 v the Sacramento Kings
October Record Prediction: 2-3
The Phoenix Suns have a very home-heavy month of November (9 of 13), but while only three games are against 2019 playoff teams (Philadelphia, Boston, and Denver), one could make a compelling argument that every one of the teams Phoenix will face that month will be a playoff team in 2020, making the month (at least on paper) a particularly difficult one.
Opening at Memphis on the 2nd, Phoenix will face the now Josh Jackson-led Grizzlies right off the bat.
Again, sarcasm, however it will be the first time the Suns face rookie Ja Morant, the player that likely would have fit the Phoenix roster better than any other player in the draft, including Zion Williamson.
That said, who else do the Grizzlies have now that makes them a formidable foe?
Sure Jaren Jackson is good, but he is no dominating force, and while Morant should be a great point guard someday, this matchup will only be his 5th game in the NBA – certainly nothing a much more experienced Phoenix team should be scared of.
The Suns immediately come back to Phoenix for six straight, with a real opportunity to use their home court to their advantage and potentially upset a few teams that outsiders would expect them to fold against.
The 76ers might be too tough of a team to beat at all this year for Phoenix, but is Miami going to be unbeatable even after their addition of Jimmy Butler? No doubt that he is great and I am personally a big fan, but Butler and Goran Dragic are easily the team’s two best players and while he looked fantastic in the seriously talent-depleted Summer League, if Ricky Rubio cannot best Tyler Herro, then the signing of Rubio was a huge mistake – which I firmly believe it was not.
Even with Kyrie Irving, without Kevin Durant the Brooklyn Nets do not look to be a dominant team and again with the season being young and the Nets on the road, why couldn’t the Suns win that one as well?
Unfortunately the Lakers are not going to be as easy to beat as they have been for the past few years, and Boston is going to be extremely tough to close out the home stand (if not better than they were last year now with Kemba Walker).
The Atlanta Hawks are sandwiched in between the two assumed likely powerhouses making those three games the toughest of the home stand.
That said, with all the changes the two teams have gone through this offseason, the Hawks are again presumably going to be a beatable team.
Phoenix goes to Sacramento on a back-to-back (the first of two that week) following the game against the Boston Celtics, making that a very tough matchup as they begin the final stretch of their November schedule.
The Suns immediately come back home to play the newly revamped New Orleans Pelicans, a team that with Zion looks to be much improved. Traveling to Minnesota and Denver for their second back-to-back, there is a chance that Phoenix can split it with most likely potential win at the Timberwolves.
The difficult month wraps up with two final home games versus the Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks.
I feel that these two games will be Ricky Rubio’s to win. Overall, the Suns should be able to compete very well against these two teams, although it will be their guard play that will carry them over the top.
Where the Suns lacked last season against each team was the ability to best match up with Bradley Beal and Luka Doncic, respectively. If Rubio can allow Devin Booker to play his game more efficiently and put Deandre Ayton in the position to dominate in the post, regardless off how the regular season series’ played out out last year, Phoenix should have a solid chance to do quite well against them beginning in November.
Had this been the 2018-19 November schedule, I could have easily predicted the team to potentially have only one or two wins coming out of the month – if not beginning the year 0-18 with a potential to be swept 0-5 in October.
However, the 2019-20 Phoenix Suns are not your 2018-19 Phoenix Suns.
Ricky Rubio alone makes this a better and more competitive one, not to mention Dario Saric, Cameron Johnson, Aron Baynes, plus an additional year of seasoning for Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Kelly Oubre, and this team is going to be much better then they have been in several years.
Does this mean the playoffs? Highly unlikely. But it does mean wins against teams who last season would have walked over Phoenix, often at an embarrassing clip.
Yes, this is a very bullish prediction, but I dare you to say it’s not possible.